The Sudan

Large parts of the Sudan, particularly Darfur and Southern Sudan, together form one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crisis areas, with some six million people dependent on humanitarian aid. The people of Southern Sudan having voted in a referendum in January 2011 to secede from the North, South Sudan will be officially founded on 9 July as the world’s 193rd country. The Sudan is one focus of German humanitarian aid. In 2010 the Federal Foreign Office made available 4.7 million euro in humanitarian assistance; Germany contributes approx. 20% to the cost of EU-funded measures.

Political background

Southern Sudan

For over 20 years, civil war has been waged in the Sudan between the Islamic North and the mainly Christian South. In the first instance, it was as matter of political and economic self-determination for Southern Sudan, but again and again ethnic conflicts caused the war to escalate. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was concluded in 2005, officially bringing the civil war to an end. The main point in the CPA was the holding of a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. The referendum was held in January 2011 and an overwhelming majority (98.83%) voted in favour of independence. A number of issues (whether the Abyei border region is to belong to North or South, the rights and nationality of approx. three million nomads, oil production, etc.) have yet to be resolved. It is estimated that during the first civil war from 1956 to 2005 around two million people were killed and some four million displaced.


In 2003 the conflict escalated in the Darfur region, which had suffered decades of economic and political neglect. One of the main reasons for this escalation was the distribution of scarce resources such as water and grazing land between nomads and farmers. The armed rebellion was violently crushed by the Government; 1.9 million people have been displaced to date as a result of the conflict, and approx. 200,000 killed. The Darfur Peace Agreement was concluded in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006, but only one of the rebel groups signed it.

In March 2009 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sudan’s President Bashir. In response, 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were expelled from the country and three national NGOs shut down. In July 2010 the ICC issued a second warrant for Bashir’s arrest (this time on charges of genocide).

Humanitarian situation

There are at least 3.8 million internally displaced persons in the Sudan, with another 419,000 living as refugees abroad. It is estimated that 20% of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid. In addition, some 220,000 refugees, predominantly from neighbouring countries such as Chad, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, are living in the Sudan. When it comes to humanitarian aid in the Sudan, however, Darfur and Southern Sudan are the prime focuses of international attention. The United Nations has appealed for 1.7 billion dollars in aid for the Sudan. The strategic priorities are improved disaster prevention and increased capacities on the part of national and local actors, better access to aid and availability of basic necessities, as well as sustainable solutions and enhanced capacities for independent action.

Southern Sudan

Because of its poor infrastructure, Southern Sudan is dependent on assistance from the international community. 75% of the population has no access to medical care, and 70% no access to clean water; the number of people contracting fatal tropical diseases has risen. Although people are still being displaced from the South of the country, more and more are returning now that it is clear that South Sudan will gain independence. Some 250,000 Southern Sudanese have returned since last October, with more arriving every week. More people are expected to return in the run-up to the founding of South Sudan on 9 July 2011. This could overstretch both the international aid organizations’ capacities and the fragile infrastructure of the urban centres, where about 30% of returnees are settling. Moreover, there are fears that with these huge numbers of people and the poor water supply, epidemics will break out. Malnutrition is another chronic problem. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), around a million people are currently dependent on food aid. In addition, maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Over 85% of medical supplies come from aid organizations.


Some four million people are affected by the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, which the UN estimates has claimed approx. 200,000 lives since 2003. Around 1.9 million internally displaced persons are living in camps and informal settlements. In addition, there are 40,000 refugees from Chad in Darfur. Clashes between the army and rebel groups, but also ethnic conflicts, mean there is no peace in the region. Since mid-December 2010, when the peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebel group was announced, there has been renewed fighting in North and South Darfur. Villages have been destroyed and many people displaced or even killed. There are also repeated human rights violations and cases of sexual violence both inside and outside the refugee camps.

The new Darfur Strategy adopted by the Sudanese Government in August 2010 provides for the closure of the camps and the return of internally displaced persons. The UN and the African Union approve of this Strategy. Peace talks are currently being held in Doha, Qatar, between the Government and the rebel troops; it is intended that once agreement has been reached there the talks will be continued and stepped up at national level. The process aims to arrive at a negotiated solution acceptable to all parties to the conflict in Darfur and to the civilian population.

German humanitarian aid measures/Federal Foreign Office humanitarian aid

The Federal Foreign Office, through German and international aid organizations (International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR), primarily supports projects in the fields of emergency medical assistance and water supply (WaterSanitationHygiene = WASH).

From 2009 up to and including 2011, the Federal Foreign Office has made available 14.8 million euro in humanitarian aid.

In the light of the thousands of returning refugees and internally displaced persons, support is given in Southern Sudan to aid projects designed to meet the basic initial needs of returnees. Financial support is also given to emergency medical assistance projects.

The Federal Foreign Office also regularly supports humanitarian mine clearance projects.

Ordnance and mine clearance

Dangerous engagement

Robberies, burglaries, kidnappings and carjackings by bandits all too ready to use violence mean that the security situation in Darfur, and especially South Darfur, is bad. This makes the working conditions for the NGOs there considerably more difficult. International aid organization workers have already been kidnapped. There is now an international presence basically only in urban areas, hardly at all in rural areas. One effect of this is to greatly reduce the flow of information about humanitarian needs in these regions.

Information about the Sudan on diplo.de:

Last updated 15.03.2011

Frau in Flüchtlingslager in Darfur

Woman in a refugee camp in Darfur

A Sudanese woman planting millet

Bilateral relations

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